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My Narcissistic Ex-Husband

Reflections on loving and living with a Narcissist.  Let our experts guide you toward the healing power of moving on and allowing yourself some time in the spotlight.  Get advice on healing from his behavior and finding yourself again.

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Ah, mothers-in-law! A recent cartoon here on First Wives World describes her as a MILF – Mother-in-law I’d like to forget.

Narcissism isn’t a genetic disorder, it isn’t in the DNA, and it isn’t something you catch off toilet seats. It is a behavior that stems from a variety of possible situations in early childhood. Needs were unmet, important attachments weren’t made, or some other situation creates a break in the connection. He will spend the rest of his life searching for something that will fill that void in his life and never, ever find it.

You Are the Interloper

No matter what you do or how hard you try you will always be the other woman, an interloper between mother and son. While you are dating she may or may not be quite cordial but after the wedding the gloves come off. She has no filter and no respect for your boundaries. There is nothing that makes her believe that you and her son are a new family that is independent of hers.

It may start off subtly. Perhaps she consistently gets your name wrong or introduces you as “Junior’s wife” and fails to introduce you by name. Maybe she doesn’t introduce you at all and you feel like chattel, a possession that is owned rather than a wife that is a partner. When you complain to your husband he just shrugs it off and tells you that you are making a mountain out of a molehill.

Slowly other behaviors creep in. She may criticize you to your husband, compare you unfavorably to his old girlfriends, or encourage him to divorce you.

Two’s Company

It would be lovely if your favorite narcissist would spend a minute and stick up for you. It would also be nice if Publisher’s Clearing House knocked on your door with a giant check. Guess which one is more likely?

For the first couple of years you may feel like you are competing. You’re not –competition implies that you can win and you won’t.

If you live in the same area as your mother-in-law your husband will be spending a lot of time over there. She will fix lunch for him or buy him new underwear. If you’ve ever watched Everyone Loves Raymond you’ve see a comical example of a MILF in Ray’s mom. The difference is that in real life it isn’t funny.

Sometimes the narcissist will realize that it’s about to get real if he doesn’t choose you over mommy once in a while. It’s rare, and while it may happen don’t expect his sudden protective persona to last. She has a weapon to combat that in her arsenal. It goes by the name of “drama”.

Drama comes in many forms and most MILFs can use any, or all of them with unbelievable skill. Guilt, manipulation, and even implication of suicide are in her arsenal. It doesn’t take much to get Darling Boy away from the dinner table and off to fight her windmill.

Don’t wait up.

You Are Merely an Incubator for Grandchildren

How do children fit into this scenario? As long as you remember that you were just the vehicle to get them onto the earth you’ll be fine. They have inherited none of your DNA, none of your characteristics. Just get used to it.

She may try to get between you and your children, subtly or not so subtly undermining your authority. This is a woman who will pick your kids up at school without letting you know and take them shopping for hours while you are frantically calling the school, hospitals, and police departments. When confronted she will smile sweetly and say she thought she had let you know.

Less often she will decide that your children, or one of your children, are as invisible and unworthy as you are. She may choose one child as her special favorite and neglect the others. Of course, the one that stands head and shoulders above the rest is your husband, forever her sun and moon and quite possibly stars as well.

empowered woman walkingImages Courtesy of C & More (Flickr Creative Commons) 

Dealing with Your Narcissistic Mother-in-law (Ex or Not)

If you are still married you are going to have to deal with her once in a while, there is just no way around it. Whether or not you just spend holidays or end up over there weekly will probably depend on how close you live. There are ways you can cope.

Give Up

You are not going to win. The more you defend yourself the more tangled things will get. You’ll just find yourself frustrated in the end. Accept that you will never be accepted by the mother-in-law. If you are divorced you might as well accept that the entire divorce, her divorce, and World War II were your fault. If you are not yet divorced accept the reality that there is nothing you can do to make her like you let alone accept you.

Accept that You Are an Outsider

Your ex didn’t defend you to her when you were married and he won’t now. Accept it. I found that my ex’s family was much better than the kids in high school at making me feel like I didn’t fit in, nor would I ever. The ex didn’t ever stand up to her in my defense and I let that hurt me far too long.

Create Space

Make sure there is plenty of space between you are your MILF. There is no law that says you have to return her phone calls, emails, or spend time with her if you don’ want to. Let the ex take the kids to see her if he wants – you maintain your sanity by staying far, far away.

Don’t Accept the Blame

It’s not your fault. Period.

Learn as Much as You Can

It would be difficult to win a war without military intelligence gathering. It is an important strategy to learn as much about the enemy’s tactics as you can. Once you know the (mostly predictable) patterns of behavior she uses you can spot them easily and not fall victim to another emotional minefield.

Do Not Buy into Her Drama

Much like dealing with your narcissistic husband or ex-husband, it is important not to fall into the cesspit of drama that she creates. Her biggest weapon is guilt and if you aren’t affected by it there isn’t much damage she can do.

Refuse to Use Children as Pawns

The most difficult part of dealing with a MILF, as well as your narcissistic ex, is sharing the children with either of them. After all, kids need time with their father and it is good for them to have extended family relationships. It can be hard to know what to do when the mother-in-law constantly cuts you down and usurps your authority with your children.

  • Do not play her game. Instead, explain to your kids that you have rules at home and her rules may be different.
  • Accept that she will try to “win them over”.
  • Do not make remarks about her to your kids or in their hearing if possible.
  • Do not let her intrude on your plans – don’t change your plans for her convenience.

Give Her to Him in the Divorce

When everything gets split up in the divorce let your ex have his narcissistic mother, as well as the drama, and the negative emotions that go along with her.

This is easier than it sounds. There are still things that were said to me and about me years ago that pop into my head every once in a while and hurt. Sometimes when things aren’t going well for me I will hear some words of her disapproval in my head.

Your narcissistic ex- mother-in-law is no more important to your life than the nosey neighbor that lives on the corner. The only things that tie you to your ex are your children. There isn’t anything that gives you any responsibility toward your mother-in-law. Let her fade into the past like a bad dream and refuse to allow her into your more emotionally healthy present.

Do you have any insights to share about handling a MILF?  Join First Wives World today to share your story and help yourself, as well as others, move into a place of healing.

Lead Image Courtesy of WDW Dorks (Flickr Creative Commons)

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  • Comment Link lily Tuesday, 24 May 2016 00:33 posted by lily

    Thank you for this article my ex mother in law turned my oldest against me by telling her lies about me. Now she is trying to turn my second against me and uses manipulation tools. I don't see my second being to interested in her at all. The ex mother in law always favored my oldest and made my other kids feel un wanted. Now that I am getting re married its like the ex mother in law is marking her territory and now wants to be closer to my other kids. I really want to just keep her away. She is truly sick and tells people these lies about me. I never see her or speak to her but once in a while shes got something to ask me that she should
    be asking her son because im not her daughter in law anymore.

  • Comment Link DP Thursday, 19 May 2016 02:15 posted by DP

    My issue is that the ex mother in law has several mental and physical issues. She continually criticizes the kids to my daughter or infers that they have mental issues. They do not have any issues. They are normal beyond belief and are such good, respectful, loving and very intelligent children.
    She refuses to see that in them even though the proof is right in front of her. She is just projecting her craziness on them. The other issue is the father remarried and the wife doesn't even speak to the children on the rare occasion they see their father. If they see him once a month its a lot. Instead the visits have become the grandmothers. Sad thing is its all legal and my daughter cant do anything about it.
    I can go on about her ex in laws. I've been told I should write a book about them. I'm truly thinking about it. They are scandalous.

  • Comment Link SoTrue Saturday, 23 April 2016 18:29 posted by SoTrue

    My ex mil basically facilitated the separation that lead to a divorce. She required my exH rich stepfather to by a townhouse in our city where my husband at the time could move to. Can't fix a marriage when hubby is tied to mama's apron strings. They took my kids on exotic trips, laundered money so he could get alimony. And of course he has a trust fund but it isn't "relevant" in a divorce in CA. 21 years of her passive aggressive and aggressive tricks on top of his. And if you met her you'd think she's a nice Chridtisn old lady and a bit ditzy.

  • Comment Link Isla Friday, 01 April 2016 18:57 posted by Isla

    Oh dear me. What a BITCH! She is a furball spewed up from Hell! So is your ex-husband. You did the right thing leaving your horrible ex-husband and that evil witch. I would have done the same thing. You have a lot of guys Sweetheart.

  • Comment Link me Wednesday, 01 July 2015 18:40 posted by me

    My story is a bit different. My MIL *loves* me. She hates my sister-in-law, though, and displayed all of these traits with her. Not with me. In fact, when my narcissist husband and I had troubles, she sided with me consistently and constantly. I don't know what to make of it, but it's made my life harder. He blames me for the demise of our marriage and hates his mother for "making him how he is" and for liking me more than she likes him.

  • Comment Link J@!m3 Tuesday, 18 March 2014 04:25 posted by J@!m3

    I am going through this as we Speak my future mother in law I figured out was narcissistic about 2-3 yrs ago I thought my He just had traits I don't want to give up on him iv loved him since 17 he had her come over to our home taunting me for 4 days they stayed and I felt plotted against me the whole time I was home I slept alone I no he can't fix it alone but càn counciling? He wsnts to stay together but wants me to move out" his cake and eat it 2" after I just moved back in a month nf a half ago iv been reading on this abuse for a few years sumetimes more then others right now it's 12 am I got home from work at 830 we barley spoke then when I decided to swallow my pride as always I asked him if he wanted to talk he said we talked enough told me no shut the bacement door where he's sleeping again but this time his mom went home they litteraly slept in the bacement together n she blames me for us breaking up said I deserve to suffer cuz all she knows is what he told her now I no I have no need to care what she sees cause in her eyes I'm lea us wrong n not good enough the crazy part is is he can't stand his mother unles she's at his rescue every phone convo is argue n bicker but he tells me that tge reason we don't get long is that I don't know how to talk to ppl n every time I make the me point that I NEVER have bad phone calls with my parents that his mom messed him up sumetimes he admits it mostly not tho right now I'm the only one wrong so he won't listen to reason he wants me to beg n plea I just want him to get help or I need to walk away n I no I'll be back so thus man is hard to find a time to give a altamatium I don't no what to do
    ( I typed this on my phone so please excuse my shorthand bs mis spelling)

  • Comment Link Indigo Friday, 14 March 2014 21:13 posted by Indigo

    This is great. The conundrum with my ex mother in law is that she could actually be nice. But, there was an undercurrent of relationship with her and my ex that I just didn't see. She was very tight-lipped....the rule of the family was "no expression goes un-punished, and punishment will usually be passive-aggressive". But every once in awhile she would actually express. In one of the last conversations I had with her, I was hurt by the things she knew about my marriage. Hurt that my ex had told her things that should have been between us.
    Sheesh, I have such a list of the enmeshment. Even in our marriage, we started therapy because he was "dating his mother". I had no idea how deep it went. And he didn't replace me with the other woman, he replaced me with her...crazy!

  • Comment Link Meiningen Monday, 17 February 2014 09:48 posted by Meiningen

    Thanks for the article. I did search for some answers and finally came across this! Incredible. My soon to be ex fell in love with a much younger woman, another narcissist, who toyed with him until he decided to ditch his family, made him to almost loose his job.

    In the marriage I felt exactly as you describe - not good enough. The mother in law is just pure evil. I tried the pleasing etc. despite recognising early on that she was horrid. My husband never stood up for me. He said I could try to get on with her. She tried to turn the kids against me, made differences until I put a stop to it. Then she cut them all off.

    The little narcissistic gathering is doomed. The young one ditched my ex, several times. But the great game continues - she dumps him but keeps checking up on him. Then she comes back, for a day then disappears again ... To see if she finished him off this time? He comes crying to me - believe it or not, this now leaves me completely cool, as a cucumber. Nothing matters to him, he doesn't see the children, just uses them for the "show".

    21 years of my life, that I am now able to accept as experience and not a loss, because of my wonderful 4 kids that I wouldn't have had otherwise. If I may, I would like to add to the article that kids are a competition for the narcissist.

  • Comment Link cat Monday, 28 October 2013 18:11 posted by cat

    Wow our MILFS must be sisters from different mothers. Mine is a master of guilt. I have had difficulty finding a job in the past two years. So she always want money and has episodes of high blood pressure and hospitalizations because I wont get a job. Ignores my daughters and loves the son who looks just like her son. I could go on and on but it is too time consuming. Really looking forward to getting a job and I can leave her with her crazy ass son.

  • Comment Link G Tuesday, 22 October 2013 14:27 posted by G

    Brilliant article!. The best day in my relationship with my in laws was the day I realized I could not please them and quit trying. it was truly freeing. They were so demanding that I barely had a chance to see my family. They were so critical that they contradicted themselves in their criticism. ie they sent not so dh home with a list of 4 things I needed to change about myself. numbers one and four were directly opposed. If you did one you could not do the other. that was the day I quit trying. They did have a favorite grandchild . That grandchild hated being their favorite.